Introduction to the ACT Science Test

The ACT Science test is the fourth and final test of the ACT. Because there are seven passages on material that looks extremely unfamiliar, it is the fastest paced, and for this reason, many students consider this to be the most difficult test on the ACT.

Another reason why this test might be considered difficult is because it is the final test, and students often feel tired by this time of the ACT test. It is important to not allow fatigue to hurt your performance on the ACT Science test—this is the final section of the ACT, so make sure you finish strong!

The ACT Science Test Format: Structure and Timing

The chart below is an overview of the Science test format. It includes information about how long the Science test is, how many questiosn are on it, how it is organized, and how long you have for each question:

Overview of the Science test format

Total Time Number of Questions Organization Time per Question
35 minutes 40 questions 7 passages total:
3 Data Representation passages
3 Research Summary passages
1 Conflicting Viewpoints passage

Passages do not appear in any particular order.

About 5 minutes per passage
52.5 seconds per question

The ACT Science passages will cover unfamiliar topics. The ACT chooses passages that students have never seen before to make the Science test fair for all students. There are even more passages on the ACT Science test than on the ACT Reading test, making it even more fast-paced. If you do not come to this test with a plan, you will almost certainly run out of time. Therefore, make sure you prepare for the ACT Science just as much as you prepare for any other ACT test section.

ACT Science

The ACT Science Test Content: The Different Passages and Types of Questions

The Passages of the ACT Science Test

Below you will find the information that the ACT provides about the ACT Science test. As with the ACT Reading test, do not try to study any particular topic in preparation for the Science test—rather, work on mastering the format and timing of the Science test. Also, the better your reading comprehension and speed, the better you will do on this test.

Data Representation
(38% –
3 passages,
5 questions per passage)
Research Summaries
(45% –
3 passages,
6 questions per passage)
Conflicting Viewpoints
(17% –
1 passage,
7 questions)
What to Expect
Graphic and tabular material similar to that found in science journals and texts

Skills required

  • Graph reading
  • Interpretation of scatterplots
  • Interpretation of information presented in tables, diagrams, and figures
  • What to Expect
    Descriptions of one or more related experiments

    Skills required

  • Understanding of the design of the experiments
  • Interpretation of experimental results
  • What to Expect
    Expressions of several hypotheses or views that, being based on differing premises or on incomplete data, are inconsistent with one another

    Skills required

  • Understanding, analyzing, and comparing of alternative viewpoints or hypotheses
  • The Types of Questions on the ACT Science Test

    There are two primary types of questions that will show up on the ACT Science test:

    1. Fact Questions – The Data Representation and Research Summary passages contain Fact Questions. The answers for these questions can be found directly in the passage.
    2. Theory Questions – The Conflicting Viewpoints passage contain Theory Questions. These questions require analysis of the positions being presented in the passage.

    Next Step

    Now it is time to work on preparing specifically for the ACT Science test. To learn the best strategies for overcoming the Science test, visit the ACT Science Tips: Strategies for the ACT Science Test page.